Bejewelled: the male body and adornment in early modern England
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This thesis investigates the significance of the jewellery that was worn, owned, and circulated by men within sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England, to provide a social and historical context for objects that are often viewed in terms of their materiality. Within the period 1509-1625 male consumption of jewellery was just as great as female consumption, yet jewellery has traditionally been considered a feminine preoccupation. This thesis readdresses this imbalance and in doing so aligns itself with the growing studies on masculinity, community, and sociability. Traditionally, studies on jewellery have adopted a more chronological or stylistic approach but there is now evidence of movement towards providing a social context for these objects and this thesis is a part of this development. In the early modern period jewellery was not valued purely for its intrinsic monetary worth; it had the ability to reflect meanings of magnificence and lineage, as well as sustain social bonds and networks of reciprocity. The myriad meanings of a man’s jewelled possessions demonstrate that jewellery was important and therefore constituted a valid part of a society’s material culture. This thesis centres on the collections of early modern European jewellery within the department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum. It is interdisciplinary in nature and combines strong object analysis with evidence from documentary, literary, archival, and visual sources, to provide a new context for these holdings. Finds continually reported through the 1996 Treasure Act have also been integrated into this research, to demonstrate the importance of jewellery for men across all social levels. Consequently, this thesis bridges the gap between traditional art history scholarship and archaeological work to provide a strong social and historical context for jewellery and men in Tudor and Jacobean England.
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